CITY HALL — Women's rights activists and aldermen called for public hearings Monday on a controversial ordinance that would allow liquor in strip clubs.
Yet Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) said she planned to reintroduce an old measure at Wednesday's City Council meeting as a way to create a new $75,000 liquor license that would allow alcohol at strip clubs. Mitts intends to raise the issue at Wednesday's City Council meeting after derailing it a month ago over her qualms about the ordinance amendment allowing full nudity.
Mitts touted her proposal as a revenue raiser, saying, "As the chairman of the License Committee, I feel there's an opportunity to regulate an industry instead of keeping hitting up on taxpayers."
Mitts' new proposal would allow topless dancers in thongs at strip clubs opting for the new $75,000 liquor license.
As it stands, according to the Law Department, the city currently allows liquor sales at strip clubs, but the bottom half of female breasts must be covered and nearly all of the buttocks with "hot pants" or the equivalent.
Lynne Johnson, policy director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, did not embrace Mitts' new proposal at a City Hall news conference Monday.
"The level of nudity," Johnson said, "is not the source of our opposition. It's the introduction of alcohol."
Johnson threatened that the ordinance, if passed, would cause "an explosion of these clubs" citywide.
Mitts countered that individual clubs would still be subject to aldermanic approval. "I don't think that my colleagues will allow a strip club to come in their area without having gone to the community first about it," she said. "I know I would."
At the City Hall news conference Monday, Ald. Toni Foulkes (16th) said it would lead to "more crime, drug dealing [and] human trafficking" at the clubs.
"I don't want any venue in my community that you can't take your mother to on a Sunday," Foulkes said.
Yet Ald. Edward Burke (14th) has previously defended such a proposal by saying a "world-class city" should have "realistic kinds of adult-entertainment venues." More recently, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) backed Mitts' proposal, saying it would halt a bring-your-own-bottle policy at the Factory, 12054 S. Doty Ave., in his South Side ward.
Mitts echoed that Monday, saying she was out to crack down on BYOB strip clubs and codify how much nudity is permissible, while raising revenue through the $75,000 license and the accompanying taxes on liquor sales.
"The dancers are already dancing in clubs," Mitts argued.
"The public is not aware of what goes on inside these clubs," Johnson said. She called for full-scale hearings on the subject, rather than Mitts simply reintroducing an amended proposal directly into the City Council meeting Wednesday.
Johnson granted her organization is generally opposed to strip clubs, saying, "We view alcohol in the clubs as making a bad situation worse."
She asked Mayor Rahm Emanuel to take a position. "We continue to call on Mayor Emanuel to stop this ordinance," she said, and "move away from neutrality."
The Mayor's Press Office declined to comment.
Foulkes and Johnson were backed by Aldermen Michele Smith (43rd), Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), Matt O'Shea (19th) and James Cappleman (46th) at Monday's City Hall news conference.
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